Fresh calls have been made to introduce more 20mph speed limits across Leeds in an attempt to cut the number of pedestrians injured. Neil Hudson reports on the latest campaign.
The number of 20mph speed zones in Leeds could be dramatically increased in a bid to keep children and pedestrians safer if a campaign by politicians in the city is successful.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who is the MP for Morley and Outwood, has joined forces with Morley councillor Neil Dawson to have more of the zones created in that part of the city.
But the vision is that 20mph zones could be introduced outside every school and in every residential area.
Coun Dawson (Labour, Morley South) says it’s more about making sure people - in the main pedestrians - are safer.
“These 20 mph zones are needed to slow down traffic and make it less likely pedestrians are killed and injured. Speeding is the most significant factor in most road traffic accidents.”
In Leeds in 2011 nearly 2,400 people were ‘slightly injured’ in road traffic accidents, 271 were seriously injured and 26 people killed.
“Another way of looking at the figures is that during my term of four years as a councillor, I can expect 300 of my constituents to be injured in road traffic accidents, approximately 35 seriously injured and perhaps four of my constituents killed,” says the 55-year-old father of two.
“Most motorists I speak to welcome 20mph zones in built-up areas near schools as it makes virtually no difference to journey times.
“I am passionate about it because it is still important to reduce the number of people killed and injured on the roads.
“The figures are coming down but they are still too high, and it is relatively easy to do this.
“Road traffic accidents can devastate lives and when caused by speeding are very easy to avoid. Reducing speed limits in heavily built-up areas will reduce accidents, meaning fewer injuries and fewer deaths.”
Coun Dawson first raised the issue of increasing the number of 20mph zones in Morley in July 2012. One new zone has been created on Fountain Street around Morley Academy.
Now Leeds City Council is poised to consider more.
Coun Dawson has already garnered some high profile backing for his campaign, in the form of Shadow Chancellor and Morley Labour MP Ed Balls.
Speaking during a visit to Leeds, he said: “Parents often raise concerns with me about the number of cars on our roads and the speed they travel. It means children are kept indoors rather than playing outside and often get driven to school rather than walking.
“With our petition, Coun Dawson and I will be asking Leeds City Council to consider introducing 20mph zones outside all schools in this area as well as in residential areas.”
Twelve 20 mph schemes have so far been installed in Leeds covering 14 schools over the past 12 months, following recent changes in Government regulations which reduced the costs involved.
A further 27 school schemes and four residential schemes are planned to be completed next financial year. Completion and evaluation of these schemes will pave the way for their extension to other schools and residential areas in the city. Previously, Government regulations meant all 20 mph zones had to include traffic calming measures, such as speed humps or road narrowing, at frequent intervals.
Changes mean these are no longer mandatory and the council can install them only where they consider them necessary. The number of signs required has also been reduced. As a result each scheme now costs around 60 per cent less than before the changes.
The newer schemes are generally taking in larger areas since only a small proportion of child casualties actually occur at the school gate near the schools.
Schemes were initially rolled out in areas of Leeds with the highest rate of child casualties.
Figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) show a dramatic reduction in the number of deaths and serious injuries from a road accident at 20 mph compared with 30 mph.
Evidence from the initial zone programme in Leeds shows 20 mph zones have so far reduced injury accidents by an average of two each year per zone.
Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for economy and development said: “All evidence shows restricting car speeds to 20 mph is much safer.
“Studies show that it also lowers pollution and it certainly makes life more pleasant for walkers, cyclists and children playing outside.”
Local residents can send their support for the petition by email to: email@example.com or by following the link on his website: www.edballs.co.uk